Protest of HH-60W Upgrade Contract Could Limit, Delay New Systems for the Helicopter

The Air Force is assessing the impact of a judge’s ruling contesting the award of an almost $1 billion contract for HH-60W Jolly Green II upgrades to determine if the service can delay some upgrades or not do some of them at all. The new combat rescue helicopter is preparing for initial operational testing and evaluation.

A U.S. Court of Federal Claims judge recently supported a Sierra Nevada Corp. protest to the February sole-source contract award to Sikorsky for a suite of upgrades to the brand-new helicopter. The upgrades would include new systems such as countermeasures, anti-jam GPS, blue force trackers, and data links, among others.

Sierra Nevada Corp. claimed the Air Force violated competition rules when awarding the contract to Sikorsky, calling on the Air Force to accept multiple bids, Inside Defense reported.

Col. William Rogers, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center’s program executive officer for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and special operations forces, said during an Aug. 3 virtual media event that the Air Force’s legal and contracting teams are assessing the options going forward on the upgrades.

“We’re working through the impacts and what the ruling truly means in terms of if there are certain things we could do or won’t do in terms of capability upgrades,” Rogers said.

A joint Air Force and Sikorsky team in April wrapped up developmental testing, and the Air Force is now in an “in-between stage” of addressing some issues before initial operational test and evaluation begins in October. This includes making sure the system’s data is ready and ensuring crews will be in the right place. Additionally, the Air Force is doing some advanced testing on the helicopter’s radar warning receiver and getting the aircraft’s gun ready for testing after some “challenges” in earlier tests.

The Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center was able to conduct some operational tests on the HH-60W during developmental testing, including capabilities such as air-to-air refueling. About 36 percent of the IOT&E test points have already been collected.

IOT&E is expected to start in October and run through March 2022.